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Old 03-31-2009, 04:22 PM   #76
Douf OP
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Day 11: St Lucia - Tembe Elephant Park





The basics of today's planned route: Double back to the N2, north to Hluhluwe, then right on the R22 through Lower Mkuze, Mbazwana and Mseleni, then right to Manguzi and on to Kozi Bay - the border with Mozambique.
Then back through Manguzi and on to Tembe Elephant Park. The rest of the crew would carry on probably into Swaziland where, ironically they'd spend their first night in a foreign country without the two real foreigners.







The planned mileage for this particular day wasn't intended to be too demanding, especially for Gary and I, as we were required to be at the Game Reserve just after lunchtime for our whistle stop safari. Even given the legendary game viewing opportunities that Africa has to offer, this trip had always been about motorcycling first and foremost. However, to come all the way from the US and not make at least a token effort to see some of the magnificent creatures resident in these parts seemed almost sacrilegious to both of us. That being the case then, prior to our arrival we had booked a short stay at the Tembe Elephant Park, which would hopefully allow us not only to inconvenience the rest of the group as little as possible (the proposed route passed right by the park entrance), but to also catch up with them the following evening and continue on the rest of the trip. Prior to any of that excitement though, the third corner of this odyssey awaited at the Kosi Bay checkpoint: the border between Africa and Mozambique.



Narissa's new and improved accommodation - Mark one got burned up on the pipe just outside Port Elizabeth

Before setting out however, Gary and I had an unusually good meal to start the day. Rather than the normal corporate crap that
had become the scourge of our taste buds for the majority of this trip, we eagerly tucked into the curry care package that Koshik and Narissa had brought from PMB. Mercifully for Gary (who if I recall said this was his first Indian food) the curry was fairly mild by Indian standards. It was tasty though, and they'd also packed some Naan (correct Ksohik/Narissa?) bread that was also excellent. Thanks guys! Even though the curry was pretty mild however, I still remember thinking later on, that given the combination of
the previous night's beer and Greek food, plus this morning's curry, it was a good day to be riding a bike.

Unable to completely finish the substantial amount of food, and with the rest of the crew mounted up and waiting, we left the
remaining curry on the hotel room counter which, along with the six-pack of Black Label left in the fridge would have made quite a feast for any unsuspecting primate intruders. That place is probably still looking for a new cleaning staff.



Where did I leave my shopping?


The ride up to the border was for the most part fairly straightforward, but inevitably it became punctuated with one or two minor incidents as usual . Before tackling any riding however, suitable riding attire had to be selected. Initially the morning had started off dry enough, but before it was time to depart the clouds had increased and a light drizzle was falling which, from the looks of things had a pretty good possibility of strengthening as the day progressed. Consequently as the bikes were filled up at the nearby petrol station and the riders topped off with their own caffeinated fuel of choice, there was plenty of time for second guessing just what the appropriate level of waterproof sartorial elegance entailed, and inevitably the protracted gasoline/coffee/dress-up procession delayed our departure briefly.



'WTF is this ungainly piece of shit for?'




'Yeah, I was thinking of wearing the green jacket, but it won't match my socks'



It was still wet - and we're just about sick of it.

Having finally resumed the pursuit of blacktop Nirvana, which by this stage had been our sole mission in one form or another for
almost two weeks; we were greeted with a stretch of pavement that in my estimation epitomized the dual sport experience........ without even venturing off road. Initially after leaving the (relatively speaking) sublime surface of the N2, it became apparent the local settlements had each crudely achieved a desired level of urban speed restriction by installing a series of not insignificant speed bumps through their midst. We soon learned to look out for the tell tale 60kmh signs which were an indication of their onset. The Dual Sport machines handled these obstacles without too much drama and by standing on the pegs it was possible to ride over them without scrubbing off much speed.



Looks a bit dryer here

The road bikes, with their relatively unforgiving suspension were having a harder time of it
however, and eventually Cindy hit one with a bit too much speed and one of her panniers came flying off. Fortunately it reattached without any problem and was even not too badly damaged after a little bout of asphalt surfing.



Cindy + Bike + Pannier - together again

Evidently though, there was some
local reconnaissance going on and, the local speed enforcement bureau, being apparently unhappy with Cindy's refusal to acknowledge the local limitations, set phase two into action......



Still had to avoid a few cows too

Riding a little way behind the silver Beemer, I suddenly came upon a
stretch of road that had feathers strewn all the place, reminiscent of some sort of airborne Kamikaze operation, that in reality turned out to be the remains of a Guinea Fowl. Apparently in its' haste to avoid conversion into instant roadkill by the front tire of the oncoming machine, the unfortunate creature had elected to become airborne at the last moment and had smacked into the side of the ducking Cindy's head (with considerable impact judging by the resultant carnage). As I recall, this was the second bird of the trip that Cindy had mercilessly executed with her head; and for those of you keeping score, the group tally now stood at two birds.... and one cat.



Manguzi dead ahead...

Eventually we pulled into a gas station on the outskirts of Manguzi, where the bikes were refueled and we stopped briefly for the inevitable nicotine and bullshit session. Since this location was at the end of the town's main drag, there were as usual, many people milling around. Looking at the residential conditions in these rural areas, it's easy to see why folks don't stay in their homes much, but on the upside there's an inherent community feeling that we just don't get back home; and it was quite noticeable how the people, obviously familiar with their fellow townsfolk, would wander down the street constantly greeting each other in what looked like quite a friendly manner. I liked it.



Part of main street



Further on

The gas station was the place to chat with local folks too, whether you liked it or not really; and so we got engaged in a number of discussions, basically explaining what we were up to, where we were from etc. Gary and I got chatting to a local guy on a Suzuki dualsport bike when he pulled up at the next pump and, it was especially interesting to swap stories for a few moments with a fellow rider from another (financial and physical) world.




Border ahead

From the gas station it was a short ride through the town and then on up to the border post. Technically we weren't at the true corner of the country, but since the remaining distance could only be covered by means of a pretty ugly sand road, it was concluded that this was close enough.



Di at the border

We got the obligatory photos at the border crossing after which the border guards were nice enough to let us step briefly into Mozambique just so we could claim we'd been to another country. We got pictures taken with the flag of Mozambique, but unfortunately no passport stamp.



NUMBER III BABY!



Ian got the first one in the book

A few miles into the country, according to my native companions, there are some pretty impressive diving sites along the coast. However at least a 4x4 vehicle, or dual sport bike (+ a big set of stones) would be needed to make the perilous journey across the deeply sanded terrain. From where we stood at the border, I couldn't really see anything going into the country that resembled a real road as we understand it; just a few vague sandy tracks that quickly disappeared into the bush. It did look fascinating though and I got the impression that our level of adventure would have immediately ratcheted up a few notches if we'd really crossed into that strange land.



Gary + New Country + Flag = Happy Gary



Bikes at the border

We'd been on the road for a while by now, so with the third corner successfully conquered, our collective thoughts naturally turned to food (even Gary and I who were still somewhat full of curry from earlier on).



It's gotta be here somewhere - Fluid film homing device

Since the likelyhood of finding a Wimpy looked pretty remote in this neck of the woods, after a few false starts the Maputoland lodge was located and we stopped there for lunch. From the route we took to get there, this place had obviously been preselected by our General as a suitable eating establishment, since there's no way that we just happened upon it. We rode back down through the main street in Manguzi then suddenly turned off up a back alleyway which had so many people wandering around that it was almost necessary to nudge them out of the way to make any progress. After a couple of further turns, the surroundings suddenly looked extremely questionable - security wise. The place was literally teeming with folks in every direction, we were completely out of sight of anything resembling a main (or even a paved) road and, we were the only white faces to be seen. Just as quickly though, rolling down one of these alleyways, we pulled through a gateway and we were suddenly confronted by the rather splendid Maputoland Lodge. Surreal!



Poolside seating



'Sorry about that - still got a bit of curry left in there'



We sat under a thatched roof, next to a pool and ate a pleasant lunch together. Ian even went for a swim as he waited for his food. Cindy didn't seem too happy with the service, but in retrospect she was probably pissed that they didn't serve mega coffees. Actually as I recall the waitress was incredibly grateful for the tip we gave her (I think it was about $10 or so) and even came back to thank Di for our generosity. I think both Gary and I enjoyed tipping the wait staff in SA, since they were usually really appreciative of any small token, which is in sharp contrast to the entitlement mentally we usually get back home. It felt good to think you'd actually made a little difference in someone's life, and briefly made them a little happier because of it.



Parking at breakfast - bikes were still intact

Eventually we finished breakfast and made our way back out to the bikes. I was looking forward to getting a few shots of the locals who'd been milling around outside the lodge compound. The logic of riding through these backstreets had seemed questionable coming into the place, but I think everyone was at ease with situation as we left; but eerily as we rode through the compound gates, all the surrounding streets were now completely deserted.

(I did a little research on Manguzi and came up with this news article)

On September 5, 2007, two female residents of Manguzi, Mangubane Msaba Zungu and Qibile Thabitha Thusi, were dragged from their homes and taken to a sports field by students of Manhlenga High School. They were accused of practicing witchcraft against the students of the school and were doused with gasoline, then burnt alive. Zungu died at the scene, and Thusi died later at hospital of her wounds.

Hmmmmmmm.........



Get me the hell out of here



And us

Safely out of Manguzi, the crew headed for towards Jozini and onto the Elephant Park. During this part of the journey the road quality was diabolical. Potholes were scattered all over the place in sufficient quantities to make safe progress somewhat problematic. Riding the GS wasn't much of a problem though, I just stood on the pegs, stayed back and yanked on the bars whenever an unavoidable pothole appeared. As some of them were a pretty good size, it was surprising that we didn't end up with a couple of square wheeled streetbikes. The prevailing road surface being freshly laid chip seal was also an issue, with enough loose gravel to make steering the bikes a bit squirely.



But despite all of these challenges, eventually the game reserve came into view without any of the bikes or their riders being any the worse for wear. The crew parked at the entrance to the Elephant park and BS'ed for a while before Gary and I made our way through the large compound gates. As it turned out, hardly any of the SA guys had been on a safari themselves, which I found surprising at the time. But in retrospect I guess it's no great surprise: although living half an hour outside the capital when back in the UK , I'd never been to the Tower of London until visiting from the US; and Gary who lives right on the doorstep of NY has never been into the city, despite passing right by it more times than he can remember.




'And slow down you sons of bitches'

As we made a few jokes about the potentially tenuous time that lay ahead with the wild animals inside the game park, it was with a sense of sadness that Gary and I said goodbye to the rest of the crew. Truth be told: at that moment I'd have preferred to continue the ride rather than go on this safari. This SA crowd had welcomed Gary and I into their midst like a couple of old friends and it was difficult to leave them there on the side of the road. Anyway the gates opened and the two of us went in to continue the next part of our adventure.



See ya later guys - hopefully


Douf screwed with this post 03-31-2009 at 09:15 PM
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Old 04-01-2009, 03:38 AM   #77
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Douf

Before setting out however, Gary and I had an unusually good meal to start the day. Rather than the normal corporate crap that
had become the scourge of our taste buds for the majority of this trip, we eagerly tucked into the curry care package that Koshik and Narissa had brought from PMB. Mercifully for Gary (who if I recall said this was his first Indian food) the curry was fairly mild by Indian standards. It was tasty though, and they'd also packed some Naan (correct Ksohik/Narissa?) bread that was also excellent. Thanks guys! Even though the curry was pretty mild however, I still remember thinking later on, that given the combination of
the previous night's beer and Greek food, plus this morning's curry, it was a good day to be riding a bike.

Unable to completely finish the substantial amount of food, and with the rest of the crew mounted up and waiting, we left the
remaining curry on the hotel room counter which, along with the six-pack of Black Label left in the fridge would have made quite a feast for any unsuspecting primate intruders. That place is probably still looking for a new cleaning staff.
Actually its not Naan .. its Roti (naan is thicker)...
and the unsuspecting primate intruders on got the beer cos Ian finished the rest of the curry.
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Old 04-01-2009, 05:04 AM   #78
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Question Elephant Trivia

Before entering the Elephant Park here’s a little Elephant background. Looks like there could be a couple of potential inmates in the herd.

Bulls: Bulls live alone or in bachelor herds which are in a constant state of flux
Matriarch: Elephant herds consist of females and the young. A herd is led by a matriarch (grandmother). As young males reached maturity they are chased away by the herd. Bull elephants join the herd for mating.
Food and intestines: The approximately 250kg food eaten every day passes through 18m of intestines. 'Yes, I'd like 600 Executive specials, please'
Tongue: Helping the swallowing process is a 12kg elephant tongue.
Digestion: Elephants digest 40% of what they eat, They need to spend two-thirds of everyday eating.
Big Pile of Crap: The daily food intake is eventually processed into about 100kg of elephant dung per day.
Gas: An elephant 'releases' 2000 litres of methane gas per day! Damn!
Water and trunk: To drink its' 9 litres of water at a time, the elephant uses its trunk which weighs 113kgs
Urine: An Adult bull produces approximately 50 litres of urine per day

No wonder the vegetation was so lush

Douf screwed with this post 11-25-2009 at 04:18 AM
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Old 04-01-2009, 08:03 PM   #79
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Day 11 (pm): Tembe Elephant Park

I looked back at the massive gates that were closed behind us as we entered the park. After filling in some visitor paperwork at the gatehouse, the guards called up to the main lodge and soon enough a 4x4 vehicle appeared to transport us into the game reserve. However, after looking at our bikes and asking us if sand riding presented a problem, they decided that Gary and I would probably be OK riding to the lodge instead.

As the guide set off with us in pursuit it quickly became evident that these were some pretty tricky sand trails. Exclusively used by four wheel drive vehicles, the trails had a raised central portion with two tracks of soft sand that were intermittently fairly deep. As we slithered along, I contemplated how much fun the rest of the guys would be having right now in this situation. Copious wildlife was obviously present in this area, which was apparent from the regular piles of dung along the trails and also the condition of the trees. On the infrequent occasions I averted my gaze and concentration from the job at hand, it was quite striking how worn all the tree trunks were, presumably from being used as wildlife scratching posts. The lower boughs had significant damage too, evidently from being used a food source by many of the local residents. Although thankfully not coming face to face with any animals on the ride, with the undeniable evidence of wildlife activity all around I wondered just how safe we really were. Probably not moving any faster than 20mph at any point, any likelyhood of out running a hungry predator was pretty remote to say the least. Speed would 'definitely' have been my friend at this point.



On a lighter note, there were also signs sporadically along the trail warning vehicles to give way to Dung Beetles, which I thought was quite funny.

Eventually though, with great relief and using a few dabs and paddles, the pair of us managed to muddle our way through a gate into a fenced area which I assumed was there to keep the beasties out. That made me feel a little safer and soon enough we arrived at the entrance to the lodge.

There was a welcoming party waiting for us at the gate and they sung what I assumed was a traditional song as we unloaded our bikes. I'm not really that big on doing the typical touristy stuff to be honest (way too hardcore for all that dontcha know ), and although it was pleasant enough, I felt a little uncomfortable with the whole thing.



'Everybody: Y..........M C A'

However the rest of the arrangements were very agreeable as far as I was concerned; best of all there were only two other paying guests that day in the whole place (a German couple who it transpired had been happily returning to SA for years). Through the entrance, a short pathway lead to a makeshift campfire area, which was surrounded by two or three indoor/outdoor buildings that housed a bar, lounge and a buffet area.





The sleeping quarters were located along additional pathways and hidden from the main area (and also hidden from each other too if our tent was typical). The accommodation that we had selected, although the cheapest of the various options, was still more luxurious than I had pictured, but struck just the right balance between rustic and comfort, with the general perception of being out in the bush feeling quite authentic (since I guess that's really where we were, duh!) The pathway leading to our tent was actually quite long and winding which further added to the sense of seclusion (when the sun finally went down it was pretty tricky to find your way along it and there were also plenty of overhanging branches to add to the sense of unknown/uncertainty).




'Honey! I'm home'



'Yeah, Gimme a medium peperoni pizza, 20 wings and a litre of Diet Coke'



Not bad for a 'tent'

After checking in, and being informed that the first game drive was scheduled to depart shortly, there was just enough time to unpack our belongings, grab a soda, quickly freshen up and then we were off.



Give me a ride on the back of Rossi's Yamaha, any day.

As Patrick, our guide for the afternoon, turned the truck out onto the trail, it felt good to be out of all the bike gear for a change. The Tembe employees had told us to take a sweater along to wear at sun down, but with such hot temperatures it was difficult to imagine they'd be necessary. However as we rode along in the truck with its' canopy shielding us from the sun and nice breeze blowing, it was really pleasant.

The first animals we came across were the dung beetles that amusingly had been the subject of all the entrance trail warning signs. Our guide Patrick however, took the task of avoiding them very seriously, repeatedly sawing on the steering wheel, running on and off the trail to preserve as many of the little crap rolling critters as he could.



Pile of crap + Dung Beetles



Carefully rolled up pile of crap + Dung Beetle

After explaining how important these seemingly insignificant creatures are to the well being of both the immediate environment and it's inhabitants, we started to take his efforts more seriously (Patrick turned out to be extremely knowledgeable about many things in this strange land.) After seeing a few dung beetles however and being keen to see something a bit bigger, we eventually came across a few Nyalas. To finally see some real wildlife at close quarters was very impressive. Patrick was very respectful of the animals, approaching slowly in the truck and telling us to remain quiet whenever we encountered any creatures.







The Impalas and other similar fast moving creatures were generally indifferent to our presence, which I assumed was a reflection of their confidence in being able to outrun any likely predators. As a consequence we were able to get pretty close to them. Other animals though, relied on different methods of survival and consequently proved more difficult to observe. Zebras for instance have a well developed hearing sense which made it somewhat difficult to get close enough for a decent picture without them running off. Other creatures just seemed to be plain reclusive. Rhinos are some of the most secretive creatures in the park, which I found puzzling as surely not too many predators are a threat to these hardy beasts.



Finally our first Elephant came into view. It's almost spiritual seeing one of these majestic creatures in the wild for the first time and I must admit it almost brought a tear to my eye as we approached it. Fortunately and unsurprisingly this big guy couldn't have cared less about our intrusion and he grazed contentedly as we looked on in admiration and snapped away. A little further along we spotted a group of Giraffes that seemed as oblivious to our presence as the elephant did; wandering around and, like most of the other creatures we saw, grazing constantly. Looks like a pretty good life to me.





Taking a break at the midpoint of the drive, we spotted a crocodile and got out of the truck to take a (slightly) closer look. From our remote vantage point, he didn't look very threatening, but no one got close enough to check.







Our guide had stopped the truck in a fairly open area and a couple of our group wandered off to answer nature's call. Patrick advised us not to go too far from the vehicle as it was anyone's guess what was lying in the long grass watching us. I suddenly lost all urge to take a pee and didn't get very far at all from the truck after that. It was easy to forget that we were in the midst of a potentially deadly environment and that there were plenty of its' occupants that would think nothing about turning one of us into a tasty snack. The fact that the gun was left back in the truck didn't make me feel much safer either.



Crocodile (Edge of water on right - I wasn't that impressed at the time either)

Presently however, we continued the game drive, seeing a decent sized buffalo herd and a few other creatures as we rode along. The day eventually seemed like it was starting to come to an end, but that was about to change.



Patrick stopped the truck when we came across two or three Elephants that were just off the trail munching on some low lying vegetation. We stopped and watched them for a while and as we did, movement in the nearby undergrowth signified the arrival of other members of the herd, and before long we were surrounded by a dozen or more elephants happily munching away on the available foliage. Obviously (from my subsequent research) this was a herd of fully grown females with their young (the adult males are chased off and only come back into the herd to mate). It was a wonderful experience, obviously way beyond my limited descriptive powers to put into words and it seemed we were with them for quite some time before they slowly wandered off.

















Inevitably

By this time the schedule was slipping and it was starting to look like we might be late for dinner. Our guide/driver Patrick had other ideas though and he set off up the trail at what I can only politely describe as an 'enthusiastic' pace. I got the impression he was on the clock and was soon going to be working for free, which obviously wasn't a situation he appeared to be particularly looking forward too. The performance of that 4x4 was pretty impressive to be honest. I've never been in one driven 'in anger' before. It tore up the trails at an impressive pace and the grip from the all wheel drive was much more tenacious than I'd expected. At some point during the frenzied drive back to the lodge I remember that Gary mentioned that one of his friends had been injured on a game drive. Since we were sat in the back of the vehicle and bouncing around a fair bit, I wasn't too surprised when he confirmed that the injury was as a result of the victim's head being banged on the canopy frame.



The Dung Beetles were having a rougher time of it on this part of the drive too. Far from being concerned for their welfare, Patrick even seemed oblivious to their existence at this stage; and in addition to the Dung Beetle massacre, we also scared a Black Rhino shitless, when we came 'round a bend at warp speed and surprised it. In keeping with its' reclusive nature, the beast ran off before any of us could get a picture of it; but rather than giving any thought to mere photography, in reality all the passengers were probably too busy holding on for grim death.

Thankfully, and with no apparent injuries to the paying customers, the truck finally screeched into the lodge parking area and with a sense of significant relief, everyone jumped out.

'What's the most dangerous predator in the jungle?'
'Patrick's truck!'

After wiping the perspiration from our brows and having one or two stiff drinks, we all sat down to an excellent dinner at the outdoor dining area. I tried the Impala steaks (which I suspected Patrick had probably flattened earlier that day) and they were quite tasty, somewhat reminiscent of venison in fact. The staff was friendly and the more senior members even ate with the guests. Additionally there were a couple of guys from North Carolina
staying at the lodge, who were involved in some missionary work, and they ate with us too.



After dinner there was a small campfire prepared where the assembled crowd sat around and chatted for a while, before heading off to bed.



The pathway to the tent was quite difficult to follow in the dark and I was glad to make it one piece; and once inside, after washing up for the night I noticed a couple of small lizards scurrying up and down the walls. Considering the remote likelyhood of catching and removing them from the tent, I went to bed hoping to sleep with my mouth shut.


Douf screwed with this post 04-10-2009 at 12:39 PM
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Old 04-02-2009, 07:58 AM   #80
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Day 11 - Redux

Yesterday's banzai game drive/pre run must have really done a number on Gary, 'cause this morning he looked pretty ruff. Thanks Patrick



(Pic: Lovebug classic - RIP Marley)

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Old 04-02-2009, 01:11 PM   #81
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Question Epiphany

The strange mystery of Mikie's dangling nuts has been solved. All will be revealed (fnar, fnar) on day 12.

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Old 04-02-2009, 01:12 PM   #82
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Fantastic report!
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Old 04-02-2009, 04:58 PM   #83
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Fantastic report!
Thankyou sir. However, after just checking out your Dalmatia thread, I'm feeling kinda inadequate. Wow! that place looks just beautiful. Put it on my list of places to visit (near the top too). I'll just pop over to your thread, give it a bump; then it's off to do some Dalmatia research.


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Old 04-02-2009, 07:37 PM   #84
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Thumb More Wildlife

Day 12 (am): Tembe Park

Since this morning's game drive was scheduled to leave at 6:30am, both Gary and I were up bright and early (despite my previous post ). After getting shit, showered, shaved and shampooed, we packed our bags as much as possible and then headed off for a quick breakfast. Since both of us were religiously taking the Malaria medication in our typically quaint anal retentive fashion, the main purpose of the food was to wash down the drugs as per the dosage instructions. In addition, we'd both sprayed on enough insect repellent to wipe out the entire African Mosquito population, but in reality I didn't find the local insects to be that bad (and certainly not even in the same ballpark as those little bastards in Alaska). However, they say it's the ones you can't feel that carry the disease, so who knows?

As expected our stunt driver was ready and waiting at the prescribed witching hour, but having only just clocked in for the day, on this occasion he maintained a pace more conducive to both game viewing and survival. Indeed, in the cool breeze of the early morning hours this initially moderate pace was more than welcome.

After cruising around the sandy trails for quite some time, Patrick explained that the afternoon drives often proved to be more fruitful in terms of the amount of animals typically on view, and after some further distance devoid of any wildlife, the customers were getting restless. Patrick took us to what seemed like every damn water hole on the entire property, but as far as I could tell, someone had given all the animals the day off. Trying to inject some interest into the proceedings, we were treated to the knowledgeable Patrick's dissertation on the habits of dung beetles, which up until that stage had been the only wildlife on view. The apparent interest
in their behavior shown by one of our German friends only added to the tedium, and his ability to by fascinated by what seemed to Gary and I like insignificant minutiae was beginning to piss the pair of us off. As he trotted out question after inane question, I was mentally consoling myself with having at least seen a pretty good selection of wildlife the previous day, so the whole experience hadn't been a total waste of time. However, just as we were hoping to spot a hungry lion looking for a tasty German breakfast, Patrick alerted us to a small group of giraffes up ahead and things started looking up. About half a dozen of them were grazing just off the trail to the left of our approaching vehicle, and although obviously aware of our presence, they remained indifferent enough for a satisfying encounter.







some.............................................. .Giraffes



............and the lesser spotted two headed variety

A short while after, we were heading along the trail and Patrick suddenly diverted our attention to some bushes on the right of the vehicle. 'Look at the balls on that monkey!' he exclaimed, without any apparent hint of irony. I squinted into the undergrowth and at first couldn't see the well camouflaged primate, but, on further inspection managed to focus on an animal which did indeed have a very impressive set of testicles.



'Come an' get it, bitches'

Never having seen such a specimen our group was quite fascinated with this creature - certainly much better than the pile of beetle infested crap that had previously captured our attention (at least I'm certain that's what MOST of us thought), however I don't remember Patrick having much additional knowledge to impart in this case. (I guess his PhD must be in crap).



An impressive set, although apparently needing a little touch up in places

However with a little subsequent background research, the internet scuttlebutt claims that (obtain pinch of salt before reading further): the blueness of a particular monkey's jewels is supposed to be a direct reflection of his standing in monkey society, and amongst other things entitles the owner to preferential sexual treatment with the local ladies. I came across a rather excellent college study, where (all in the name of science of course) a sorry specimen from a captive troop's proletariat, was taken from the enclosure and then had to suffer the indignity of having his obviously unimpressive set of gonads painted a shocking shade of blue by the attendant professor. After being returned to the enclosure, the academics were amazed to discover that the other monkeys were obviously very impressed with our little friend's new and improved appendages and subsequently treated him with a good deal more respect. If only it were that easy in real life (er, maybe it is - plastic surgery).

Anyway, discovering this little nugget of knowledge, has resulted in somewhat of a testicular epiphany on my part. Therefore, on the basis of the aforementioned anecdote, I can conclude that the blueness of the plastic testicles hanging from the rear of Mr. Michael Defreitas' GS is not just intended to be sympathetic with the bike's color, but also obviously supposed to convey some inherent level of super human potency on the part of its' rider. Well Mikie, old son, I hate to bust your bubble, however......



That set of balls on the GS might be impressive, but.....



....... you're somewhat compromised..........



....... by your apparent inability to......



........keep it up

Moving right along then.....

And we did; in fact we were almost having Black Rhino steaks for lunch (probably illegal I'm guessing), when the truck rounded a corner and immediately confronted an ornery looking specimen right in the middle of the road. A little collective Naugahyde sucking inevitably went on as the beast took a few quick paces towards the vehicle in what looked like the start of a full on charge. Fortunately though, he soon thought better of that maneuver and instead charged off into the woods to the right of the vehicle in classic Rhino fashion. In other words: before anyone could get a picture of him.

We got a bit luckier at the 'hide' though.

Not long after this incident, we pulled up at the custom built hide on the property which is at the site of a large water hole. They have a web cam there too: it's at www.zulucam.com Here, it's possible to view the animals as they come and go without them being aware of anything untoward. This was immediately apparent as, upon our arrival there were two of the thus far elusive Rhinos hanging around the edge of the water. They loitered long enough for us each to get a good look at them through the binoculars before finally they wandered off into the bush.



According to Patrick, these were White rather than Black Rhino's. Now I'm not much a Rhino expert and to be honest I couldn't tell them apart. In fact the only difference I could see was that the Rhino's now standing in front of us weren't blurred.



A solitary Elephant presently wandered into view and we all watched as he took a drink from the water there. He lingered at the water's edge for a while before also lumbering out of the picture. Presently, after watching some other animals and having a few refreshments, we climbed back into the truck and Patrick, apparently still being satisfactorily remunerated for his time, drove us carefully back to the lodge.



Upon arrival, there was quite a spread laid out at the breakfast area; but rather than eat, the pair of us, mindful of the mileage ahead if we were to rejoin the rest of our traveling friends by the end of the day, decided to skip breakfast and hit the road. Quickly packing the rest of our belongings, we said goodbye to staff, endured/enjoyed a farewell song as we loaded the luggage and paddled our way behind Patrick's truck back up the sandy trail to the front gate. After a brief farewell, we were back on the road.


http://www.tembe.co.za/

A short, but memorable experience. Great staff too.

Douf screwed with this post 04-02-2009 at 08:42 PM
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Old 04-03-2009, 05:52 AM   #85
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I just fell off my chair. Phil you dog, the blue balls are supposed to give me more respect
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Old 04-03-2009, 07:03 AM   #86
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Douf

........keep it up
tsk tsk .. and I thought that bigger rod for the 'plenty of fish in the sea' comment was the last of Mikies man-hood!... but Phil does it again!

freakin hilarious!

btw phil... its easy to tell the black rhino from the white rhino ... by the balls .. guess which are smaller!
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Old 04-03-2009, 08:19 AM   #87
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Koshik
tsk tsk .. and I thought that bigger rod for the 'plenty of fish in the sea' comment was the last of Mikies man-hood!... but Phil does it again!

freakin hilarious!

btw phil... its easy to tell the black rhino from the white rhino ... by the balls .. guess which are smaller!
Hey Koshik,

I'd forgotten about that 'rod' comment and consequently missed another excellent opportunity to give Mikie some crap Thanks for reminding me, and if you spot any other opportunities to further deflate the lad's healthy ego, please don't hesitate to chime in

Re Rhino balls: Ha! Ha! Ha!

Assuming the genital status-quo in Rhinoland is as out of balance as the comparable human inadequacies that we unsatisfactorily endowed white boys have to endure: then I'd have to guess the Black Rhino's gonads are comparably huge.

Reminds me of that old nugget: 'What's white and twelve inches long?'
Answer: 'Nothing!'

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Old 04-03-2009, 08:35 AM   #88
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Originally Posted by MikieSA
I just fell off my chair. Phil you dog, the blue balls are supposed to give me more respect
Sorry Mikie: you know I'm laughing WITH you really

In reality though, as I've been writing this report, I've missed your enigmatic presence on the ride, so I took this opportunity to drop in a little Mikie folklore. (you've got a few more references coming up too and, believe it or not, some of them aren't totally disparaging )

In my defense though, I'm at least holding my fire somewhat: just think, that Cape National Park moon shot should have certainly gained internet infamy by now. I had the perfect tie in at corner #2 as well: when describing the well defined crack separating the Indian and Atlantic Oceans which is chiseled in the rock at the ocean's edge

Wish you'd have ridden the rest of it with us buddy. Really!

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Old 04-03-2009, 08:48 AM   #89
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Fantastic! Looks like you are all having a terrific time -- fun group, great photos, wonderful trip.
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Old 04-03-2009, 08:54 AM   #90
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Bluhduh You've been busted, boy

Day 12 Part 2 - The Riding Bit (Tembe Park through Swaziland).











Back in the saddle again and heading away from the Game Reserve, not far down the road we came into Jozini, riding over a quite spectacular damn at the entrance to town. To me it felt good to be back on the bike again, however it was almost midday and there was still the small matter of 550km and two border crossings to address before reuniting with the crew at Sabie.



Some water - earlier today



Downtown Jozini was another of those medium sized settlements that oozed humanity from every community pore. At the typically grid-locked petrol station I felt significantly more vulnerable than usual without my armory of South African outriders for comfort. But in familiar fashion, after filling up the bikes, grabbing a drink and chatting with a couple of inquisitive locals, the ride continued. Besides - they welcome tourists.



'Yes, tourists and..................more importantly, your money'



A veritable hive of activity



The pulsating metropolis that is downtown Jozini



The local market sells many exotic foods..........and in the background, for the less adventurous: KFC

Heading out of town after a brief ascent, the twisty road dropped into the basin of the Pongolapoort Lake via an excellent stretch of blacktop that clung to the side of the surrounding cliffs. At lake level, the route turned right (quite where was a matter for brief debate since our respective GPS intelligence wasn't particularly consistent) and we continued onto Swaziland Border at Lavumisa.



The lake at
Pongolapoort - beautiful



Bikes at the Swazi border

And then the fun started. I got my passport stamped on the SA side, after which the nice lady there notices my passport has less a couple of days less than a month to run (I was initially made aware that this might be a problem upon departure in Atlanta, but they let me out of the country anyway).

'You'll have to get this fixed in Swaziland (at the British Embassy in Mbabane - miles from our intended route), or you won't be able to get back into SA'

'Give me my passport back then we'll just go around Swaziland instead' (not much of a detour, in reality, but we wanted to get the extra country in if possible).

'You can't do that, I've already stamped you out. You'll have to get it fixed'

Shit! With the possibility of being stuck in Swaziland sorting this mess out, we considered our options and decided to go to the nearest northern border, and then, if we had a problem there, hit all the others until (hopefully) we got through. As it turned out, we were admitted at the Swaziland side without an issue and at the subsequent border posts, I continued as though nothing was out of order and no one said any more about it.



'Actually I'm 46 not 40, but thanks anyway'



'Siyakwemukela Eswatini' - English translation: 'Eat shit, white boy' Eventually though, after a fashion, they let us in.

As our intended route continued along the eastern portion of the country (up through Big Bend, Lukhula, Nokwane and Tshaneni), we traveled along mainly straight roads for a good portion of the journey. However, apart from the uninspiring nature of the blacktop, it was striking how well developed the agriculture was in this area. In a country about the size of Wales, I guess they've got to make good use of what they've got, however there was a level of organization here that certainly took me by surprise. Most of the farming looked like it was being done on a corporate level, rather than the small traditional holdings stereotypically thought of in these parts and there were thousands of acres of carefully cultivated crops (a lot of sugar, if I remember correctly) lining the roadsides. (Just off the road at the edge of a field around this time, we also spotted the gruesome scene of a large overturned tractor with its' driver, apparently pretty badly injured, lying on the ground beside it. Quite a number of people were already on the scene providing assistance before we came along though, so we didn't stop.)



Unsurprisingly, as in reality we were just up the road from Tembe and still in 'game reserve' area, we noticed numerous animal related warning signs as we rode along. My personal favorite was an earnest little item warning cyclists to beware of Elephants and Lions. Cyclists! I concluded that if I got a flat on my MOTORCYCLE, there's no way in hell I would have stopped around there to fix it: I'd have square wheeled it to somewhere safer before even remotely entertaining the thought of pulling over. Unfortunately, we didn't see any of the animals, but I did notice a couple of abandoned bicycles in the area. A little while later however, we did spot a giraffe walking down the road, which I think in retrospect was the highlight of my game viewing; as that moment, in my mind, was the only truly spontaneous game interaction on the whole trip. I appreciate that the wildlife at Tembe is essentially in its' natural habitat, but with the organization of the game drive, the guide, and everything that went with it, I found it difficult to shake off the personal perception that the whole experience wasn't somehow contrived: that anyone could do it. But riding along the road on my bike and a Giraffe suddenly wanders past? At that moment it was just me and the giraffe; it was our special moment, and no one could pay a safari company a bunch of cash to do the same trip tomorrow.




'They'll take anyone in Swaziland' - Child friendly restaurant

Presently, refueling requirements (rather than group nicotine requirements) dictated a gas stop, but after having filled the bikes, choked down a quick snack and taken a personal pit stop, the pair of us just kinda looked at each other. At the outset of the trip I think we'd both been secretly worried that (compared our normal 'ironbutt-esque' riding habits) the pedestrian progress a group ride inevitably entails would soon test our patience. Remarkably though, it appeared as though we'd both fallen into our new 'carefree' riding habits fairly easily and in fact we missed the group social interaction at each stopping point that was an integral part of this journey - (Mikie, who left us at Cape Town and subsequently did the trip back to Jo'burg solo, related in his report some similar experiences). So after a few moments of 'dead air time', we headed out.



'Now, a brief message from our sponsors..............'

On a positive note, the significantly shortened and infrequent gas stops were a definite plus in terms of progress - as I mentioned we were now riding tank to tank (>200 km) rather than smoke to smoke (around 60 km). However, time saved in this area was being somewhat offset by our moving average, which had automatically dropped considerably without the rapidly disappearing General and his troops to contend with. In the absence of our peers we'd adopted what to us was a comfortable speed of 130-140km/h that, since we no longer had to endure the constant buffeting of high velocity cruising, made the resultant riding experience enjoyably relaxing and we motored along happily taking in the sights of this foreign land. (I never did come to appreciate the attraction of blasting endlessly along a dead straight road, wide open for hours on end - just makes my neck ache and fatigue sets in that much quicker. Some might say I'm just a pathetic middle aged old fart and I need to get a life (and they'd be right ). The twisty bits are another matter though. I guess since they sell plenty of Hyabusas and the like, obviously plenty of folks do enjoy that kind of riding: each to his own I suppose. YMMV). Oh, one final point, for the first time that I can remember on the trip, we were (almost) riding at LEGAL SPEEDS. With that in mind then, how ironic is it that around this time we finally got pulled over for speeding.

Somewhere around the border area (I think it must have been on the Swaziland side, since the uniforms worn by the cops in the significant cache of us+police photo's we'd taken by now were different to those that these guys were wearing ) we came into another small settlement and, contrary to our group's normal approach of completely disregarding any posted request to moderate our rate of progress, we made a token gesture to legality and slowed down to about 80 km/h (speed limit was 60km/h IIRC), which felt almost stationary compared to usual. A short distance into town, and before we had a chance to slow down any further, we came across a small group of roadside cops who this time obviously weren't just checking documents, as the first one I noticed has a laser gun pointed directly at me. They motioned to us to pull over, which we did, then took off our helmets and started chatting, hoping to get away with the by now familiar document check routine. They were friendly enough, but the solitary male officer in the group was already starting to fill in the paperwork, and any feeble requests for leniency were disregarded. To add insult to injury, being the first one through the trap, I was the one getting the ticket - which further added to the irony, as today was the first time on the trip that I'd been leading for any significant amount of time (reason: only I had the detailed SA info on my GPS). However, as I stood there resigned to my fate, I looked over at the laser gun they were using and immediately did a double take.

'Guys, I've got to get a picture of you using this equipment. I used to work with the guy who designed it!'



Local law enforcement - foreign hardware. Busted by a US laser gun.

This IS a true story. The company is located in Norcross GA (www.lasercraft.com) and the guy I was referring to left his job at the facility at which we were then working to form a company making laser rangefinders and consequently he founded this one. Our friendly law enforcement agents were not only convinced by the truthfulness of my anecdote, but also suitably impressed by the sheer implausibility of the scenario and, after expressing their total incredulity at the entire situation, told me not to worry about the ticket. Excellent! Consequently our new friends happily posed with us for the obligatory photographs, following which we waved goodbye and hit the road.



All's well that ends well.



'OK, now let's just get one more of the bride and groom'

(Looking back through the photo archives, it would appear that the border area sting is fairly commonplace, since in another part of Swaziland the South African contingent ran into a similar operation. Although, maybe this one was only a document check, as I find it difficult to imagine they wouldn't still be looking through bars if a Laser Gun had been involved.)



Elsewhere in Swaziland - Law enforcement deja vous.



After losing his cavity search virginity a few days earlier just outside Kokstad, Paul appears to relish a rematch..........



.........and although enjoyable, the experience left him limping for the next three days.

Finally for the Swaziland portion of the ride (as mentioned earlier), given the tenuous nature of my passport's expiration date - and attempting to leave the country by any exit possible - we approached the border crossing just north of Tshaneni and thankfully rode back into South Africa without any problem.

Douf screwed with this post 04-05-2009 at 07:46 PM
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